February 05, 2018 11:59
North Korea's Masikryong Ski Resort was overflowing with luxury products last week despite international sanctions than ban their export to the isolated state.
Foreign cigarettes, liquor, perfumes and track suits were all freely for sale in the shops, according to South Korean reporters who visited last week to cover joint training of junior skiers from the two Koreas there.
A cigarette kiosk on the first floor of the ski resort sold Dunhill and Rothmans International as well as Perdomo cigars. Yamaha drums as well as Chivas Regal cognac, Ballantine’s whiskey and Heineken beer could be spotted in a ballroom in the basement, while stores on the second floor sold Nike and Adidas shoes and track suits and North Face backpacks as well as Burberry bags, Lancôme cosmetics and Kenzo perfumes.
Store clerk Kim Il-sim told the reporters, "We put these products on display because we get many guests from abroad."
The aim seems to be to earn hard currency at the resort, which is a pet project of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in trying to project a modern image.
The North Korean products at the ski resort included mushrooms and balloon flower roots. A bar on the first floor sold liquor brewed in North Korea, including blueberry and ginseng wine. North Korean cosmetics were also on display under the brand name Unhasu and handbags of the Okedongmu brand which means "shoulder to shoulder."
A set of skis stamped with the Masikryong Ski Resort's own brand would set visitors back US$700 and a ski suit $70. Ski rentals as well as purchases at the resort coffee shop could be done with pre-paid cards that accepted foreign currencies.
A business center on the second floor had two computers with Internet access, for a cool $4.60 for half an hour. But the South Korean reporters were not allowed access.
There were also pool tables and coin-operated claw machines. The bookstore there only sold propaganda hailing and praising nation founder Kim Il-sung, his son Kim Jong-il and Jong-un in English, Russian and Chinese.
North Koreans at the resort apparently use mobile phones called Pyongyang 2416 and Arirang.
Prices are well out of reach for most North Koreans. A day pass costs $40 for adults and $22 for children, while a night at the hotel costs $190.
According to UN statistics as of 2014, the per-capita annual income of the average North Korean is $696. The resort is clearly for Kim and the elite only.
The regime gave South Korean reporters relatively free access to the resort in the hope that they would publicize it. Previously South Korean reporters had been put through stringent security checks in North Korea, but this time authorities did not bother to check the videos and photos in their cameras and laptops.
And as on any comped junket, they had a well-stocked free minibar in their room with North Korean mineral water, beer, tea, coffee, chocolate and gum.
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